TITLES competition – with prizes!!


The work I’ve been doing to prepare for writing the steampunk coffee-shop romance – and do I love those words in that order! – has crystallised for me a habit that I really should try and break.

I’m quite a visual person, you see. I’ve always found when I start to write something, that having lots of relevant pictures helps me ‘see’ my story playing out. When it’s fanfic, then that goes a step further and before I set finger to keyboard to write the story, I make the header banner for my fanfic website. I love doing it and it’s an integral part of how I approach writing: get the title fixed in my head and make the image header to go with it. Then really start writing.

Did you notice that I slipped a little something in there? Get the title fixed, I said. And therein lies the reason for this post.

I do fix the title for a story early in the process. I usually know what the story’s going to be about, broadly. So a story set in Lancaster’s coffee shop just down the street from the British Museum? Easy. Google is our friend here, for lots of quotes and sayings about coffee that might inspire a title. I ended up with two that I liked:

Suave molecules of Mocha stir up your blood… (Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord)


Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with. (Drew Sirtors)

Cool.  Suave Molecules became the working title, with Dousing the Sunrise as a potential back up.

Problem then is that I sighed and flounced and generally kicked about my study in a fit of creative angst (duh!). I don’t want to write a contemporary male/male romance set in a coffee house. Hell, how often has that been done? Done to death, most likely. The coffee’s well cold on that one.

Then came the next layer of complexity. I like the steampunk aesthetic, you see, and the idea of building a world that is recognisable, because it’s like our history and looks a little bit like the London of 1890, but is essentially very different in the way society works… oh yes. That appealed. And so Lancasters travelled back 130 years and the modern coffee shop romance became the steampunk coffee house romance. Still the same two heroes, still the same general background for each of them (egyptologist from the museum and ex-pilot who now owns the coffee house), but now they’ll be wearing cravats and top hats rather than jeans and tee shirt. I had loadsa fun creating images of coffee cups and steampunk pistols.

At first I thought I could still use Suave Molecules as the title – it has a steampunky feel, don’t you think? But no. The Muse had me wandering around the study still, clutching my brow and generally acting phrenetic (to use the steampunk spelling) and dissatisfied with myself. It wasn’t *enough*. What may have worked for a contemporary romance, a fairly sedentary story that could have been subtitled “Scenes From A Life Spent In A Coffee Shop”, just isn’t adventurous enough for steampunk. It needs more than two gentlemen in greatcoats drinking their coffee from steam-powered coffee machines (with built in furnaces and a clockwork barista).

So now half of the book will be an adventure in Aegypt, with Hero 1 going out for the winter’s excavation season and Hero 2 going with him. There will be shenanigans with sabotage and Anubis-headed jackal men in the desert, and romantic drifting down the Nile on a felucca. And I love it. I love the entire idea that my little contemporary coffeeshop idea has spread its mechanical wings and flown and is transmogrifying into something bigger and better.

The only trouble is that the title isn’t growing with it. I have never been in this position before, but *I can’t think of a title*. And that’s where the bad habit comes in. Not knowing what to call the new story means that I feel terribly inhibited about starting to write it. I am *stumped*.

So here’s your task, if you’re prepared to take it on. These are the parameters :

Steampunk setting in 1890s.

Male/Male romance

Egyptian adventure fossicking around archaeological digs – tombs!
Mummies! Scarab beetles!

A coffee shop near the British Museum

Any ideas for a title?  I don’t promise to use it, but whichever idea most tickles my fancy, so to speak, will win you an ebook of FlashWired and a signed print copy of the latest Cuddling anthology from Dreamspinner.  Comment here with your title ideas and your email addy to win.

Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You are my only hope. Help break the title deadlock!



  1. I love all these elements so much that I’m clapping my hands in delight as I read them! And I see your problem. Suave Molecules doesn’t *quite* fit. Adventurous Molecules? Molecules of Attraction? I got nothing so far. Will give it some more thought… 🙂


    • I’m really enthusiastic about this story, and I’ve started blocking out the outline a little. I’m just a bit on the back foot because of the title. Or lack thereof.

      At the moment I’m inclining towards “Lily With a Crooked Stem” because with that lovely phrase, Rawlinson in his 1877 book, described the shape of the land of Egypt. And I think it might make people go and look to see what the book’s about, especially if I get a good steampunky cover!


  2. No title ideas (I’ll let things *percolate* in my subconscious, though) but I wanted to say that I LOVE the concept and can’t wait to read it 🙂


  3. When I first heard about your title search, “Coffee with Steam” popped into my head. But then I read about Egypt. While that makes me MORE interested to read the story, I don’t think it fits my somewhat tongue-in-cheek offering at all. And though I’ve tried to think of something to do with Egypt, my brain is stuck. Egyptian Espresso? See–weird stuff.

    One way or the other, I’m interested in reading the story!


    • Getting the title set is a bit of a challenge, but I’m having a lovely time reading Victorian histories and travel books as background. And I’m compiling a list of possible titles to run past you all.


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